Isaac Julien featured on LACMA'S 'Black American Portraits'

7 November 2021 - 17 April 2022

Complementing the presentation of The Obama Portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald held in association with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG), LACMA presents Black American Portraits.


Remembering Two Centuries of Black American Art, guest curated by David Driskell at LACMA 45 years ago, the exhibition reframes portraiture to center Black American subjects, sitters, and spaces.


Spanning over two centuries from c. 1800 to the present day, this selection of approximately 150 works draws primarily from LACMA’s permanent collection and highlights emancipation and early studio photography: scenes from the Harlem Renaissance, portraits from the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, and multiculturalism of the 1990s. Isaac Julien is part of the exhibition with the photographs Serenade (pictured), from series Lessons of the Hour (2019), and Last Angel of History, from Looking for Langston (1989).


Black American Portraits chronicles the ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to envision themselves in their own eyes. Countering a visual culture that often demonizes Blackness and fetishises the spectacle of Black pain, these images center love, abundance, family, community, and exuberance.

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